LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Army Sergeant Christy Gardner was injured in the line of duty while serving overseas as a military police officer. She suffered skull and facial fractures as well as a spinal cord injury that left her without the use of her legs.
Since then, Gardner, a native of Lewiston, Maine has been through 22 surgeries. Her doctors gave her a three-page list of things she would never do again. “They said I'd never live alone or be independent,” Gardner said. “They said I wouldn't walk or ride a bike or even be able to bathe alone.”
But Gardner was on a mission. Beneath the shock and anguish, she was determined to live her life to the fullest, no matter the challenge.
“I'm highly competitive and there was no way I was going to settle for my wheelchair and sitting on the couch."
After years of physical and speech therapy, Gardner’s medical team decided it would be in her best interest to have her legs amputated. She had the left removed in the summer of 2015, and her right leg the next year.
Ten months have passed since Gardner made the choice to become a double amputee. She says she was petrified the moments right before the surgery; not only of what the future might hold but that her doctors would back out of the surgery.
On the day of her operation, Gardner wasn’t able to reach the clinic for someone to pick her up from the airport in San Diego. She began to wonder if she was scammed and lost her deposit. Later, she realized the person picking her up waited at the other end of the baggage claim the whole time. Gardner said she was skeptical right up until she was rolled into the operating room. "I kept expecting them to change their minds like the doctors here (in Maine]).” After the surgery, "it was weird," Gardner said. "I was no longer in pain so I kept forgetting I was an amputee."
With the help of prosthetic legs, Gardner started walking the first week of May 2016. This year’s Dempsey challenge was her first 5k. “I was honestly worried about being able to finish since that distance is usually what I do in a whole day. I finished in almost exactly an hour and even ran the last 0.2 of a mile across the finish line.”
Gardner has proven wrong every doctor who told her it couldn't be done. While in rehab Gardner started playing sled hockey and eventually made the USA women's Sled Hockey team. This year is her 5th on the National Team. She was elected Team Captain in October 2016. She's also starred in track and field. “I've met what they call 'emerging athlete status' after six weeks of training.”
Two weeks after the Dempsey Challenge, Gardner embarked on an adventure to Oslo, Norway to take on the Europeans and Canadian Hockey teams.
Gardner will always be on a journey of hope and inspiration, despite the many obstacles she faces. “I have high hopes for the future of USA Track & Field...with my sights set on the 2018 Winter Games for hockey...and the 2020 Summer Games for track.”